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How to stop the mid-management exodus

Businesses need to develop retention strategies or risk losing management or potential managers. In this post, we provide advice on how to combat a management exodus.

Mid-management employer advice


When you think of a “millennial” worker, do you think of a recent graduate, or somebody who you have worked with for years who is running their own team? The label covers anyone from 21 to 33 years old.

While there has been considerable focus on how to attract graduate millennials into the workforce, there has been very little said about how to retain and incentivise those older individuals who have been working for over a decade and now occupy vital, mid-level management roles.

We are facing a disengaged management, or even worse, an exodus of this critical cohort of the workforce.

Those businesses that don’t develop robust retention strategies are in danger of losing their newest generation of managers and potential leaders. In fact, according to research from Hays, over half (54 per cent) of millennials expect to quit their jobs in the next 12 months – a third anticipate leaving within six months.

We are facing a disengaged management, or even worse, an exodus of this critical cohort of the workforce. In sectors like finance that are already suffering from skill shortages and don’t have a secure pipeline of managers, the situation could be particularly dire.

Here is some advice on how to retain your newest management generation:

Be open and honest about career paths

Millennials are typically highly ambitious and keen to progress up the ranks quickly, but organisations have done a poor job at nurturing this, which can have a severe effect on morale.

Our research shows that more than a third (36 per cent) of millennials believe there is no scope for progression with their current employer, and almost half (44 per cent) feel uncertain or negative about their career prospects. Put succession and development plans and management programmes in place to help them succeed.

Target incentives in the right areas

The way we work is changing and some businesses are adapting their formerly rigid working hours structure. However, a one-size-fits-all approach isn’t for everyone, even if your flexible working structure seems particularly progressive.

If possible, offer a variety of flexi-benefits that employees can pick and choose from. You might think the “younger generation” only wants unlimited holiday and the ability to work from home but that’s not always the case, and offering a choice is likely to be well received.

Open your doors

Communication and transparency are vital to build trust with your employees: don’t be afraid to share company information and set aside time to discuss the wider business strategy with your middle managers. There is often a massive gap among millennials between expectation and reality – they are commonly also known as Generation Why for a reason. Help them to understand how their activity fits into the bigger picture and why you are asking them to do it.

Don’t dismiss disengagement as disloyalty

Millennials are often perceived to be less loyal than preceding generations and are held responsible for today’s more fluid jobs market, but that’s not always the case. Many businesses are all too eager to dismiss concerns from younger employees as typical Generation Me behaviour, but you should avoid stereotypes and seriously consider whether you actually have a retention issue on your hands.

Losing your future leaders will hit productivity and damage the business. With concerns growing around mid-level talent shortages, there is no time to lose in pulling our millennial management generation out of the danger zone.

This article originally appeared in City AM.

About this author

Managing director of Hays Recruitment

Nigel Heap, Managing Director for Hays UK & Ireland

Nigel is Managing Director for Hays UK & Ireland and Chairman of the Asia Pacific business.

After graduating in law, Nigel trained as an accountant before joining Hays in the UK in 1988 as a trainee consultant. His successes led to rapid promotion and he quickly became a director of one of Hays’ largest businesses.

In 1997 Nigel was appointed managing director of Hays Australia and for the next 15 years he oversaw the ten-fold expansion of Hays’ business in Australia and expanded operations to New Zealand, Hong Kong, China, Japan, Singapore and Malaysia. This led to his appointment as Managing Director of Asia Pacific. In 2012, Nigel moved back to the UK and was appointed as Managing Director of the UK & Ireland and Chairman of the Asia Pacific business.

Nigel sits on the London Council of the CBI.

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